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Posted June 9, 2006 EST

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Fire Races Through Morgantown Apartments
A fire broke out at a luxury townhouse complex on Thursday, destroying four unoccupied buildings and damaging two occupied structures. No injuries were reported, a Morgantown newspaper reported.

Ten fire departments battled the blaze, which started at about 6 p.m. in a building under construction at the Suncrest Village complex off W.Va. 705, said Ron Skidmore, assistant chief of the Star City Volunteer Fire Department.

W.Va. 705 is the main artery running from near West Virginia University's Ruby Memorial Hospital/Mountaineer Field campuses in Suncrest out to the Milegroundm.

It took firefighters two hours to contain the blaze, which continued to smolder Thursday night. The two occupied buildings and a clubhouse sustained heat damage, Skidmore said.

"This is in the top five I've seen in my career," Skidmore said of the fire. "Just about every fire department in the county was here."

Sharon Stratton, a resident of one of the buildings, said she grabbed her purse and passport and ran after she smelled smoke. She went back into the building to make sure her neighbors escaped after noticing that no one had tripped the fire alarm.

"I saw black smoke, and I knew this would be terrible," Stratton said. "Most of us just got out with our clothes."

State Route 75 was closed because sightseers were blocking the road. It was reopened at 9 p.m., a 911 dispatcher said.

Each of the buildings had 24 apartments. The complex also has a 6,500-square foot community center and a maintenance building, said a dispatcher with Secure U.S., a Morgantown company that provides security systems to the community center and maintenance building.

The complex is being developed by 705 Five Development Group, whose partners are David Biafora, Rick Biafora, Larry Palumbo, Pat Alexander and Bob Toth.

Dave Biafora told the Morgantown newspaper that the company would pay for hotel rooms overnight for affected residents.

The cause of the fire has not been determined and is being investigated by the West Virginia Fire Marshal's Office, said Ryan Thorne, deputy director of the Monongalia County Office of Emergency Management.

Written by Charleston Gazette

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